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Apr 15, 2012 07:04 AM

French oysters in Manhattan?

I was recently in Shanghai and enjoyed Gillardeau oysters for the first time in my life. Last week I had a sudden craving for oysters and decided to look up my go-to raw oysters spots in Manhattan and their oyster menu. It suddenly dawned on me that only oyster from North America are ever on the menu. That prompted me to research if there are USA restrictions on importing oysters beyond waters within North America countries? But then I thought how could this be? NYC is considered one of the culinary destinations in the world and many restaurants overnight all kinds of fresh seafood, meats, cheese, macaroons, noodles etc from all over the world... but not oysters? Still, as of yet I can not find them listed on menus anywhere. Is it possible to eat oysters from Europe or South Africa or Australia like I enjoyed during my trip abroad when home in NYC?

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  1. Sadly, no. Not in NYC or anywhere else in the USA. You can try to look for the NZ ones but not Europe or South Africa.

    "I live in New York City, where pretty much any foreign delicacy is readily had, from jamón ibérico to blowfish. But not English Colchesters or French Belons or South African Knysnas or hundreds of other varieties of oyster that thrive beyond our shores. The U.S. government forbids the import of oysters from abroad, with exceptions for those from Canada, Mexico, Chile, South Korea, and New Zealand (the latter three are almost never sold stateside, in any case). Oysters are among the last of the “go-to” foods: you have to go to them."

    There are certain requirements that need to be met to import. There are currently only five nations with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to import shellfish into the U.S. These are Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, and South Korea.

    6 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Most interesting info.,!!
      No wonder why the 'Belon' I had at Grand Central Oyster Bar was from Maine and not France!!! Ha!

      1. re: Charles Yu

        The Maine Belons are actually quite interesting, as they're descendants of a few "escapee" oysters from many years ago. Still quite rare and hard to get, even domestically.

        1. re: loratliff

          Balthazar currently has Wild Belon oysters from Maine for $3.75, which is a little cheaper than at GCOB, I believe. Delicious! Had some last night. :)

        2. re: Charles Yu

          The Belon oysters at GCOB were always amazing. I always thought they were from France. I guess not.

        3. re: kathryn

          Thank you for the information and answers to my questions. After reading the T&L piece I have a kind of appreciation for the author's comment about oysters being last of the "go to" foods. Unfortunately I dont ever travel to Europe but am in Taipei and Shanghai a few times a year. My future trips to those cities will still be about consuming local delicacies and ingredients but from now on also a reminder about the opportunity to enjoy oysters from around the world. Thank you for your time and reply!

          1. re: kathryn

            I often go to Nice, France to enjoy the oysters. I've come to like huge oysters, I used to only want the tiny ones. The oysters in France are amazing. I was quite disappointed to find out that we can't get them in the US.

          2. Just got back from Paris and Amsterdam. The local oysters were fabulous. There were no oysters from "America".